Some dogs like to eat slowly, savoring every bite of food as they go. Others, though, like to gobble it down as fast as they can, practically inhaling their food as soon as it’s placed in front of them.
There’s nothing wrong with being excited about food, but eating too fast can result in serious consequences. If your dog is scarfing down his food too quickly, you may want to intervene. It’s not just a matter of manners—eating too fast can actually be life-threatening for your four-legged friend.
Dangers of Eating Too Fast
Enthusiastic eating isn’t necessarily bad, especially if your dog tends to be a picky eater. Devouring food too quickly, though, can cause some unwanted results. For starters, swallowing food that hasn’t been thoroughly chewed is a choking hazard.
We know how uncomfortable it can be to sit with a too-full belly after eating too much, too fast. This also applies to dogs. Eating too fast could result in an upset tummy, or possibly even vomiting.
Swallowing too much air as a result of eating too fast can also lead to bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), a potentially serious condition. This occurs when the dog’s stomach expands quickly after being filled with gas, food, or fluid. The expanded stomach will put pressure on other organs, minimizing blood flow and causing breathing difficulties. Sometimes, the stomach will even twist, sending the dog into shock.
Signs of GDV include:
- Restless/anxious behavior
- Drooling or foaming at the mouth
- Paying extra attention to the stomach, indicating pain or discomfort
- Stomach swelling
- Unproductive vomiting
- Decreased energy
These signs could appear up to an hour after eating. If you suspect your dog is experiencing bloat/GDV, take him to the vet immediately.
Why Do Some Dogs Eat Too Fast?
The reason for eating too fast can vary from dog to dog. Some of the most common factors include:
Competition. A pup who has to compete for food with other household members may tend to eat as fast as possible, for fear of missing out on food. Even if he doesn’t currently have any canine peers, the fast eating could be a lingering bad habit from a previous home.
Irregular meal times. If your pooch is never sure when he’s going to get his next meal (or came from a home where meals were inconsistent), chances are he’s going to devour the one in front of him for some extra security. Plus, he’s probably pretty pumped about the food if he’s been anxiously waiting for his bowl to be filled.
- Underlying medical conditions. There are certain serious health issues that can affect your pup’s metabolism and appetite, causing him to feel extra hungry. Things like blood sugar level issues and intestinal parasites can also increase hunger as well as deprive him of the proper nutrients.
For dogs experiencing digestive issues, Pet Honesty’s Probiotics Chews promote healthy digestion and intestinal health, and are especially helpful for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
How to Slow Down Your Dog’s Eating
You’ll want to help your pup slow down if he’s eating his recommended portion in under a minute—but really, it’s a good idea to be preventative and help your dog slow down his eating habits in general.
Some suggestions for turning those gobbles into nibbles include:
Purchasing a slow-feed dog bowl or puzzle feeder, designed so that your dog can access his food, but isn’t able to take any large gulps. The puzzle feeder will also provide some extra mental stimulation to keep Fido’s mind sharp.
DIY slow feeders or puzzle feeders. For example, slow down meal times by spreading food in one layer across a cookie sheet so your pooch has a harder time getting big mouthfuls of food. For a DIY puzzle feeder, try placing food in a muffin tin, with each space covered by a ball or toy (not small enough to swallow!). That way, your pup has to move the toy before he can get to the food.
- If you have the time, consider turning meal times into training times and hand feed food in place of treats. Not only will this prolong your dog’s meal times, it will provide important bonding time between the two of you.
Turn meals into games. For example, hide food around the house so your dog has to “hunt” for it. That extra exercise is a nice bonus, too.
Give your dog his own space to eat. If Fido is eating too quickly out of fear that someone else will steal his food, relieve some of that stress by letting him eat in a separate room at his own pace. (If this is the case, you might want to take a rain check on hiding food around the house.)
- Provide smaller, more frequent meals during the day. Dogs should at least twice per day, but eating more frequently can take away some of the novelty so your dog doesn’t get overly excited when he sees a full food bowl. Also, smaller portions can help the issue of eating too much. With an automatic dog feeder, food can be dispensed on a regular schedule in the desired portions.
What works for one dog may not work for another, so take some time to figure out which method(s) work for you and your dog.